Abolishing the Law
Many preach that Christ abolished the law. They say he took the commandments and nailed them to the cross. Consequently the law has no power over us anymore. They say that Christ has achieved God’s purpose by bringing us to God through the cross without having to keep the law.
What did Christ abolish?
One of the Bible passages used to support this teaching is found in Ephesians, “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Ephesians 2:11-18).
This is not talking about abolishing the universal law of the Ten Commandments that applies to all humanity and was established long before the Old Covenant came into existence. Paul is saying that through his sacrifice Christ has abolished the enmity that existed between Israel and the Gentiles. He abolished the enmity by abolishing the Old Covenant with the nation of Israel and establishing a New Covenant that was open to all humanity. Under the New Covenant we are all one through Christ. The commandments and ordinances he was referring to were those concerning the services of the priests within the Tabernacle. They had been established in ancient times as a shadow of something more substantial to come in the future. Christ was the substance of what was to come.
Once Christ had been resurrected to the position of our immortal High Priest there was no longer any need for a human priesthood, nor was there any need for the laws concerning their service, “…there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.” (Hebrews 7:15-22).
The breaking down of middle wall of partition between humanity and God was symbolised when the veil in the Temple was rent in two as Christ died (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). Through his death he opened the way for all humanity to be reconciled with God, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
We are all one through Christ, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29).
Commandments and Ordinances
Paul was quite explicit about the Old Covenant with its commandments and ordinances of divine service in the tabernacle being abolished, “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” (Hebrews 8:13 to 9:10).
When Christ became our High Priest the old priesthood which foreshadowed him was abolished, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14).
He established a New Covenant, “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.” (Hebrews 9:15-20).
All these rituals of the Old Covenant (Testament) pointed toward the coming of Christ and the New Covenant, “Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” (Hebrews 9:21 to 10:1).
Commandments Still in Force
When Paul said, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Ephesians 2:15) he was referring to the laws concerning the divine service of God in the Tabernacle under the agreement with the Nation of Israel. These are the laws that Christ fulfilled through his sacrifice when he was raised to become our High Priest. He did not come to do away with the laws that are universal to man kind, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19).
He made it clear the laws we know as the Ten Commandments are still in force, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). He comes to those who keep the Commandments, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21). They are the Commandments that come from God the Father, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10). They are the Commandment kept by the saints, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12).
Surely Satan would not bother to make war with those who keep the commandments if their commandment keeping was not leading them closer to God, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17). It is those who keep the commandments that will have eternal life, “Blessed are they that do his commandments,that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14).
What was nailed to the Cross?
Some will say that Christ nailed the law to the cross, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (Colossians 2:13-14). But is this the case? The Greek words for ‘handwriting’ and ‘ordinances’ are ‘cheirographon’ - a legal document, and ‘dogma’ - a decree. In other words the ‘handwriting of ordinance’ that Christ nailed to the cross is the legal sentence that has been declared against us for our trespasses of the law.
Jesus Christ has been ordained as our judge, "…it is He (Christ) who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42 NKJV and II Timothy 4:1). He has full authority to execute judgment over us,“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” (John 5:25-27). What Christ blotted out was not the law by which we a judged, but the sentence imposed by the law when we sin. He made our sentence null and void through forgiveness when we repented.
Those who preach that Christ abolished the law do not understand the difference between the law and a covenant. They misinterpret Ephesians 2:11-18 to include all law when it is only talking about commandments and ordinances pertaining to temple service under the Old Covenant which is an agreement between God and Israel. Neither do they understand that Christ nailed the sentence we have been given and not the law itself to the cross. They ignore the many scriptures that support commandment keeping. It is obvious that we are saved by faith rather than the law. But the Ten Commandments are still in force and we need to avoid sin, which is defined by them. Christ did not abolish the law. In his authority as our judge he takes the sentence we have earned under the law and nails it to the cross by overruling the law on our behalf when we repent of our sin.